State refinery operator Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC)has finalised the first stage of prequalification for its planned 615,000-barrel-a-day (b/d) refinery at Al-Zour. The final shortlist will be released after a second stage of evaluation is completed.Thirty-three international contractors submitted applications in early October, but about three are since understood to have withdrawn their submissions, while three-five are understood to have been disqualified by KNPC. The list of applicants has been split into two tiers. Tier 1, for which 12 are on the preliminary list, contains companies capable of carrying out engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts worth more than $500 million. Tier 2, for contractors capable of work up to $500 million, contains the remainder. KNPC has already stated that tier 1 contractors must team up with tier 2 firms to bid for the three-five packages, which are likely to be tendered early next year The estimated $6,300 million grassroots refinery will be the largest ever built in the region, and one of the largest in the world. It is aimed primarily at providing fuel oil for the state’s power plants, but has been configured to switch to refine export crude if a source of natural gas is found. The refinery is expected to come on stream in 2010. The Houston office of the US’ Fluor Corporationis working on the front-end engineering and design (FEED) and is also the scheme’s project manager. The US’ Foster Wheelercarried out the feasibility study (MEED 12:11:04).